Doing Fine focuses on the small moments and movements | Dance | Chicago Reader

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Doing Fine focuses on the small moments and movements

A spinal injury led Joanna Furnans to an autobiographical solo dance exploring the minute.



Minute movement. Mundane moments. Memoir.

A spinal injury sidelined Joanna Furnans early in the process of creating her new immersive solo performance Doing Fine. "I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep going with dancing or what the recovery would look like," she says. "What kind of motor skills do I have if I can't use my spine as liberally as I would like to?" The resulting exploration of "fine movement"—which she describes as "minute, particular, exacting, not sweeping"—as well as the consideration of the place performance holds in a life composed of "multiple things: a health thing, a stress thing, a family thing, our jobs, what we do for fun, all the things that make up who we are and what we do with our lives" led Furnans to the concept and title of Doing Fine, both an expression that indicates a moderate condition of being and the execution of small motor control in the absence of larger possibilities. The play on words was another route into the work—Furnans has written about dance in venues including Windy City Times and Performance Response Journal. Experienced interviewing other choreographers in the city, she says, "I loved the process of hearing who they are and how they got to be making these things they're making, so I started asking those questions of myself—how did I get to this point in my making and my trajectory and history?"

While Furnans ultimately escaped the limitations of injury ("I was getting a little bored of fine motor skills," she admits), autobiographical writing took on a central role in the form of a text for audiences to read as part of the performance. "I knew I didn't want to write autobiographical stories that were dramatic or catastrophic—I luckily don't have much of that in my history," she explains. "I was interested in seeing if people are interested in paying attention to a story that's not overdramatized. Can the banality of our lives hold equal value? What are the mundane and day-to-day events that I experience as memoir?"

Engaging the autobiographical in dance was a collaborative process for Furnans: a cross-country series of one-on-one residencies with dance makers she encountered at pivotal moments in her history as a dancer: Lu Yim of Portland, Deborah Goffe of Holyoke, Morgan Thorson of Minneapolis, and Molly Shanahan of Philadelphia and Chicago. Each contributed source material that Furnans has woven into a continuous solo. "It has been eye-opening to be able to find my voice in writing [next to] the silence of my body dancing. We project onto performers and wonder what they are thinking about. I interrupt that by giving you a sense of what my voice is like, what my life is like."  v

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